Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC)
Interview of the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Russia S. V. Lavrov for China Central Television, Vladivostok, September 6, 2012
Question: APEC is the forum, on which the main economic issues are discussed. How do you assess the presence of the Heads of the Ministries of Foreign Affairs of the forum participants here?
S. V. Lavrov: You are certainly right. APEC is not the interstate association, but the forum of economies. It is written in all documents. But today the international life is such that the Ministries of Foreign Affairs must deal with the economy, as it, like other spheres of human activity, becomes the part of the foreign policy efforts. The more so because in many countries including the economies of the countries represented at APEC the Ministers of Foreign Affairs are also Ministers of Trade. There are many such examples. In cases, where the Ministry of Foreign Affairs exists independently, as, for example, in China, Russia and other countries, it has functions of coordination of activities of all other sectoral departments.
From this point of view there is some logical scheme, and the participation of the Ministries of Foreign Affairs in APEC work is dictated by the need to promote the solution of economic issues. Also on the agenda of APEC there is the theme «Human Security», which refers to the development of agreements aimed at the more effective fight against terrorism, organized crime, drug trafficking, response to emergency situations. In these areas, the Ministries of Foreign Affairs play the certain role.
Question: Some experts believe that the holding of the APEC forum in Vladivostok will give Russia the chance to change the vector of economic cooperation from the West to the East. Are there, in your view, the signs of similar tendency in the foreign policy of Russia?
S. V. Lavrov: I would not give the assessment of the economic situation as «reorientation from the West to the East». We want to use the eastern vector to the maximum, which has always been present in the Russian foreign economy and foreign policy more effectively, without any «kickbacks»on the western direction, because the European Union is our largest economic partner, and we are not interested that our trade and investment links will suffer. No one is going to develop the eastern direction of our external economic activities through western or southern direction. There are already the shifts in this matter. Even 10 years ago, the Asia-Pacific region in foreign trade of Russia took about 16 % a year, and now – 24 %. In many ways, this was due to the rapid growth of our trade relations with China. But, of course, there are still the directions to continue the work. Relations with China have the very solid foundation and long-term plans approved by the leaders of the two countries. But we want to simultaneously increase the cooperation in the field of economy and investment with other countries in the region, especially since they have mutual interest.
As a rule, the foreign policy should follow the economy. At present, in the Asia-Pacific region the center of business activity is moving, countries are emerging, which become the economic engines that have the great economic potential and financial strength, which leads to the increase in the political influence of those countries. The most important is that the political processes in the region take place on the open, transparent areas in forms that do not pose the concerns of the participants of this region, which very important and attracts the attention.
In September 2010 during the visit of the President of Russia in Beijing we together with China at the level of leaders took the initiative of the formation of the security architecture in Asia-Pacific region based on non-block foundations and the principles of equal and indivisible security for all. This is the important and long-running initiative, which we are going to advance in the variety of formats including relations of Russia with the ASEAN countries, the cooperation of Russia and China in the framework of East Asia Summit, etc.
In foreign policy activity we are equally interested in ensuring of security in the Asia-Pacific region and in the strengthening of security in Europe, where a lot of problems given the removal of the old thinking, attempts to keep the dividing lines. These tendencies are also evident in Asia, particularly, in the U.S. plans to establish the global missile defense system, which cover both Europe and the Asia-Pacific region. We want, like China, that these plans were transparent and implemented in ways that do not pose threats to the safety of anyone else.
Question: This year could be called «the year of elections». France, Russia and some other countries took the presidential elections. There is not much time before the U.S. elections. In your opinion, are any changes visible in the international balance of power? How can political rearrangement in the large states affect the stability of the world?
S. V. Lavrov: Do not forget that in China there will be the major event - next Communist Party Congress, from which we also expect interesting decisions on foreign policy issues. The balance of power is determined not much by individuals but by the real situation of the country in the world economy and, consequently, in world politics.
Of course, the leaders coming to power bring their own specific features in foreign policy activities and other areas of management of the state. But I do not think that the change of power in France and the upcoming elections in the U.S. will lead to the drastic change in the line of the implementation of the national interest. The national interests of each country always remain reasonably constant. Every normal state wants to live in safety and have conditions to communicate with the outside world, the most conducive to economic development, solving of social problems, and the rise of welfare of citizens. Russian foreign policy is also based on these principles. We are ready for equal cooperation with all, who are ready for it, and we are interested in the development of equal and mutually beneficial relations with countries all over the world on the basis of pragmatism and the interests of each other.
Our relations with most states, first of all, if we talk about relations with the People's Republic of China, are developed on these principles. But in addition to the weight of some states in the modern world, the important role is played by their relation to international law. If you do business on the basis of the UN Charter with support on the most important principles fixed there, it always gives more benefits to the state for defending of its line, convincing of partners. It is on this basis the cooperation develops in the framework of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), the BRICS group, role and weight of which in the world economy and politics will only increase.
Question: How do you see the development of the situation in Syria? Can there the replication of the Libyan scenario be? Will Libya become the end point in a series of «Arab revolutions»?
S. V. Lavrov: We would not want the repeat of the Libyan scenario where else and are ready to ensure non-admission of attempts to perversely interpret the UN Security Council. The position of Russia, like China in the Security Council, is based on the fact that we have to agree in the UN Security Council on the methods of influence on the given crisis that would really help to calm the situation and transfer of the conflict in negotiating political plane, but are not applied to support only one side of any internal conflict.
I think we have made the very important step - and I thought that it would give the result - when on June 30 in Geneva there was the holding of the meeting of the «Action Group» on Syria, which was attended by our two countries, the three other permanent members of the Security Council, the Arab League, Turkey, UN Secretary-General. At this meeting the document was agreed and adopted by consensus (the so-called «Geneva Communiqué»), which in detail and specifically outlined the steps, which should be taken for the practical implementation of the known Plan of K. Annan to resolve the Syrian crisis. It was the balanced document that came out from the need for all external players of this drama to influence on every Syrian side to made them stop the violence, solve humanitarian issues, release the prisoners and hostages, others persons captured also by the opposition, make tem sit down at negotiating table to agree on the formation of the «transitional governing body» on the basis of agreements between the Government and all opposition groups.
Honest and fair approach is the approach that really gave the chances to put the early end to the violence and thus save the lives of many Syrians. When we asked to approve this document in the Security Council, our Western partners were not ready for this. They said that this was not enough - we need to request that firstly the fighting was stopped by the government that it withdrew armed men and heavy weapons from cities, and only then we could ask the opposition also join the truce. Approach is unrealistic, not because we support the regime - we do not endorse anyone, besides the interests of the Syrian people. We do not want that Syrian citizens continue to be killed in this fratricidal conflict. Approach is unrealistic because the Government, in fact, is called to unilateral surrender. Those, who advance this idea, are naïve people (but probably it is not so), or they want to provoke outside intervention.
We will strongly oppose any attempts to adopt any decisions in the UN Security Council that will be used later to justify the outside interference. My answer is very simple: we together with all main partners (in the West, in the Arab world also including Turkey) reached the agreements enshrined in the Geneva document. We remain to be convinced that the faithful and active implementation of these agreements will give the result. It is necessary that the other external players will take the same position in this matter.
Question: Some scientists believe that the Chinese-Russian ties through the line of contacts between people are far behind relations at the official level. Do you think it as fair conclusion? What is it needed to do that the relations of equal trust partnership and strategic cooperation between the two countries will move on?
S. V. Lavrov: Our relationship is the relationship of strategic partnership and multifaceted cooperation – they are on the rise related to all directions. The fact that the trade and economic relations have reached the volume of more than 80 billion dollars a year, and in near future, probably, they will exceed 100 billion mark, means that hundreds of thousands of Russian and Chinese citizens are involved in economic and investment cooperation. They are engaged in joint implementation of trade and investment projects - this is the clear and objective basis to consolidate and deepen the human relationships.
Second, we do not ignore the humanitarian sphere of our cooperation. In the framework of the mechanism of interstate cooperation, regular meetings between the heads of the governments of Russia and China, there are several working groups including the group on Humanitarian Affairs. Now the agenda includes the task of development of humanitarian cooperation program for next ten years. This task should, firstly, take into account the existing experience, and secondly, identify new interesting forms of cooperation at the level of civil societies.
Accumulated experience is very valuable. Over the past five years in our countries «cross» years of Russia and China and years of Chinese and Russian languages have been conducted. Now the full program of the events of the Year of Russian tourism in China is being implemented. In next year we plan to ensure the unusual events on Chinese tourism in Russia. These new forms that we are actively using open up additional opportunities for communication between our citizens. Let me give you some examples. At one time we invited Chinese children from the provinces affected by natural disasters to stay for the rest in the Russian Federation. See, you know this. Most recently Chinese friends had invited three hundred Russian students, who spent some very interesting weeks in China. In response Lomonosov Moscow State University invites the relevant group of students from China. Soon, at the invitation of Chinese friends fifty Russian families will travel to China in the introductory trip.
I think that in this direction we see the motion and there are good prospects. Of course, everyone always wants more, but the progress is on the face.